Monday, June 21, 2021

My (brief) experiences understanding some “Catholic” words from an English perspective

 This might be trivial for some people, but it did help me so I wanted to share in case it helps someone. I don’t know if anyone whose first language is English has experienced the same thing I have experienced. (Although I am ok now, I've had a history of depression, PTSD, etc, and all of these diseases causes one's dopamine levels or serotonin levels to be deficient which can hinder, to one degree or another, one's ability to speak, understand language, and learn, so, maybe it is just me, and maybe you don't have this experience.)

In another post a long time ago, I mentioned that I don’t say “thee” and “thou.” I translate to “you” because I have no experience with the words “thee” or “thou” and therefore they do not connect in my mind the way “you” does. (Not that I think there is anything wrong with thee and thou, and I don’t think one should be indignant about them or anything.) To me, they are like foreign words but used in the middle of an otherwise English sentence, which I feel I have to translate as I read, like climbing a wall, to be able to connect to the meaning of what I’m reading. This seems to distance me from what I am reading and from the persons who are speaking in the Gospels or who I am speaking to in prayer (ie, I don’t pray a Hail Mary or Our Father with “thee,” because I feel too separated, more like play-acting than speaking to God or Mary). So I replace it with the word “you” in my mind or writing. … I’m not saying you have to do that, but when I do it, it helps me better connect to, and be closer to, what is being said and to Whom I am speaking.

When I first converted to Christianity and I read about Mary, I read terms such as “mediatrix” and “co-redemptrix.” I thought they were very intellectual sounding words and also very… sort of fancy. Very impressive words and titles; very honorable, too!

But… they present the same problem as “thee” and “thou,” except even more so because they are made up words that I have never heard before.

I only recently started to translate these words into what they would actually be in English, which are Mediator and Co-Redeemer.

Because “mediator” and “redeemer” are actually real words in English, they have a much deeper impact on my mind, and they much more profoundly show me God’s Mercy in creating Mary and giving her to us as our Mother, Mediator and the Co-Redeemer.

“Mediator” and “Co-Redeemer” are real words in English so they are much more powerful words to me in helping me to understand what is really being said.

I have come to the conclusion that the sort of intellectual jargon words “mediatrix” and “redemptrix”, while very intellectual and fancy, … just… don’t have a lot of impact on me on a more profound level. Even more than “thee” and “thou.”

I feel the jargon has delayed and hindered my coming to a deeper understanding of God’s mercy in souls and Mary’s God-given role in the salvation of souls.

I also feel that translating these words from their more impressive Latin-based made up version to a real English version is more humble of me to do, more “little” (as in, the Little Way of Saint Therese). I’m not trying to be intellectual, I’m just trying to be close to God. I think that is more humble.

Mary typifies all of the promises Jesus gave in the New Testament (and throughout the Old Testament) about those who would believe in Him: for example, rivers of living water will flow from them. This is certainly truly observed in Mary. They will work wonders in His Name. This is certainly true of Mary, which we experience when we pray to her and ask her to pray for us. Etc.

I also sort of feel that these “Catholic” words are not condescending to the native English speaker and are also over-intellectualized, and therefore, a bit vain. (The word Catholic means Universal – it is not really universal if you don’t translate it so I can understand what you are saying and so see the fulfillment of Christ’s promises in His believers.)

What I mean is, if I were to go to, say, India to be a missionary, I would learn one of the native languages of India (there are many!) and I would try to speak to the people who spoke that language in the words that they speak so they can understand what I am saying about God. I would not try to make up new words based on my native language of English and try to make them understand what I am saying in my English-ized words. I would condescend to their language because I would want them to be able to understand better Who God is. And I wish I could see that condescension a bit better towards my native language of English.

The best example I can think of for this is Japanese. What we know as Japanese is really the common man’s Japanese. There is a second Japanese which is traditionally only spoken in the Imperial Court. It is like… Imperial Japanese. At the time of the end of World World 2, the Emperor came on the radio to speak to the Japanese people about the surrender. However, the people didn’t understand most of what he was saying. It was like a foreign language to them because he was speaking in the Imperial language. Which, frankly, is a mostly foreign language to common man's Japanese.

It would be like if someone said, “we should preach in an Imperial language because Jesus is King!” Yes, He is King. He is more of a King than anyone has ever been: He is King of Kings. Mary is Queen of Heaven and earth and all of us. … Yet… Jesus is not a king born in the cradle of gold and diamonds… He is a King laid in an animal’s food trough. To show that God will triumph over all the power and wealth of the world and public opinion. … He was not a King who was visited by foreign dignitaries, men and women dressed in embroidered silks and expensive dyes whose decisions impact millions of lives and who have considerable wealth. … He was visited by shepherds. Very, very poor shepherds. Who may have had nothing but sheep. They might not have even owned the sheep, they might have just been shepherding them. They might have wore sheepskins. They might have only eaten what they could catch or hunt. They might have been patched together. They might have smelled and had dirty faces and unkept hair that perhaps they did their best to clean before visiting the King, and it might not have been that impressive a transformation. Very poor persons. But they had sincerity… they were chosen… And when He spoke, it was not exclusively to educated men and women. It was often times to… the poor… the sick… the forgotten… the excluded… the sneered upon… the woman at the well who had been passed around, discarded by so many men and considered so unimportant… sinners whose confessions He heard and then healed them… the absolute worthless of society, either made so by their own sins or by circumstances they had no control over, by their societies or people’s sins against them… the “have nots,” the “losers.” The failures. The forgotten. The rejected. The unloved. The poor. The powerless. The unclean. The lowest caste. … And we know of He spoke even with an accent. A southern accent, which the intellectuals of the day sneered at and said of Him, “he is an uneducated yokel who keeps company with stupid fishers.” He didn’t have a college education or sound like a Harvard grad. … So… if you preach in an Imperial language… no one would know what was being said. Even if it is very impressive. … And it isn’t really what Jesus did in His whole Life. He was meek and humble of heart. Life, death, resurrection… and today, too…

English is not a latin-based language (although we do have a lot of words from Latin based languages). Unlike Latin-based languages, we do not have different nouns for male and female. For example, in Spanish, a male doctor is called “doctor” and a female doctor is “doctora.” If I had grown up speaking Spanish, this would be very straight forward to me. (Well, the words are super close anyway, it isn’t difficult to grasp. Adding -trix and -ess to the end of things sort of makes them part of a whole different language, it’s so far away from any English I know, and it just doesn’t have the impact.)

I sort of think whomever invented the term “redemptrix” was attempting to “Latin-ify” English by creating a feminine word for redeemer or mediator. But this does not connect to my thoughts as a native English speaker. For example, we do not call female doctors “doctrix” or “doctress.” We call them doctors. Just because that is the way that English is.

There are many languages besides Latin-based ones which have masculine and feminized words (including Hebrew), and there are many languages besides English which do not. (English may be the current international language, but English is not a top tier language in Catholic history – that would be the latin based languages and … Polish.)

I really like the Latin Mass because it is much more powerful for Exorcisms. The Mass is very beautiful and wonderful, and the High Latin Mass is actually quite “Jewish,” if you’ve seen Jewish things, which is very beautiful because… it fits very much with the whole Bible. It makes a lot of sense. It is wonderful. And even though at first it was very difficult for me to follow so I did not, I felt like the unconscious man on the side of the road in Jesus’ example of who the true neighbor is, and I felt that Jesus was coming to take care of my immortal soul despite me being ‘unconscious’ to what was being said at first. This was a very beautiful and wonderful experience and I received so many blessings and deliverances which impact my life to this day. I do not think there would be such a need for exorcisms if we had more Latin Masses. They really are wonderful for deliverance!

But Latin is a dead language and so it is everyone’s second language… Essentially it is the Resurrected Language. Latin in a Mass reminds all Christians in all countries that earth is not the Kingdom we must aim for, but rather a new citizenship in Heaven that is very real… even so far as to be in another language. Like a true country, not just the “idea” of a country. But a real place we must strive for and strive to bring on earth through our closeness to God, especially in prayer and in His Sacraments (baptism, Mass, confession).

But when a missionary preaches to a people in their native language, it seems a lot more humble for him or her to speak to those people in their native language… I think, anyway. (I’m not saying the Good News should be preached in slang or with the grievous sins of contemporary language such as foul language or anything like that – but at least in real English that I can grasp. Even if it is a more formal or correct English, it helps me to read real English words rather than made-up – and frankly, unnecessary – words. Unnecessary because I know Mary is a woman already.)

I started writing or translating over my Catholic books which use the word “mediatrix” or “co-redemptrix”, to “Mediator” and “Co-Redeemer” and this has personally helped me a great deal to understand. It has more impact on a deeper level.

So, I suggest that if your native language is English, you try writing or mentally translating these words in your books because maybe you will come to a new understanding of the great impact that these titles have, which would deepen your contemplation of God’s infinite Mercy and His infinite love for us by giving us His holy Mother as our mediator and co-redeemer, and the proper abandonment we should give to Mary to obtain graces for our souls from God through her intercession so that we can spend eternity in Heaven with God.

It might help you to do so; it helped me, anyway. That’s why I thought I would share.

Maybe you understood it already on a profound level and it won’t make a difference to you. That’s very good!

But it me, it really helped me to understand Mary and God better and I feel like I’ve begun a fresh contemplation of God’s Mercy.

(PS. This same sort of thing is in the Good Success book, where they refer to the founders of the community in Quito, Ecuador, as “foundresses.” It is a little redundant, given that they are nuns so we know they are women. I suggest trying out this translation from “foundress,” another attempt at latin-izing English with a made up word, to “founder” so you can again see the great impact of the work of the holy warrior of God, Mother Mariana, and all of the other holy founders. Again, unless it has no impact on you. Maybe it was just me.)

Have a nice day~!

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